Difference Between Circulatory System and Lymphatic System

The key difference between circulatory system and lymphatic system is that the circulatory system is the organ system comprising of a network of organs and vessels that is responsible for the flow of blood, nutrients, hormones, oxygen and other gases to and from cells while the lymphatic system is one of the two parts of the circulatory system.

The circulatory system is the most important system of the body as it ensures the exchange of substances between all the tissues of the body and the external environment, and the transport of various substances from one bodily organ to another. William Harvey was the first who discovered the function of the heart and the circulation of blood. He stated that the heart was a pumping organ provided with valves, to maintain the flow of blood only in one direction; that blood was distributed to the organs by means of deep laying vessels, which he called arteries, and the blood was returned to the heart by more superficial vessels called veins, which still holds true. This system is now called the cardiovascular system. However, there is another system that works in close coordination with the cardiovascular system, which is the lymphatic system. Thus, these two together form the Circulatory System.


1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Circulatory System
3. What is Lymphatic System
4. Similarities Between Circulatory System and Lymphatic System
5. Side by Side Comparison – Circulatory System vs Lymphatic System in Tabular Form
6. Summary

What is Circulatory System?

The circulatory system is the combination of the lymphatic system and the cardiovascular system. Thus, it comprises the heart, blood vessels and blood as well as lymph, lymph nodes, and lymphatic vessels. It controls the whole transportation activity in the body and is responsible for exchange and transportation of gasses, transportation of absorbed food, transportation of hormones and enzymes, carrying waste products from various tissues, and creating immunity and protection from foreign bodies.

Figure 01: Circulatory System

There are two main types of circulatory systems; they are called open and closed circulatory systems. The open circulatory system is the system in which the blood is free in the body spaces for the most part of the circulation. But in the closed circulation, the blood never leaves the blood vessels like in the mammalian circulatory system.

What is Lymphatic System?

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels just as the cardiovascular system but lacks a pumping heart, and consists of the only type of vessels with valves and nodes at certain places like the armpit, thymus, spleen and neck. The fluid circulating in these is called the lymph, which, actually, is derived from blood plasma forced out of the blood vessels. However, it is devoid of any red blood cells and blood proteins. Lymph accumulates in the interstitial spaces as the interstitial fluid. It is circulated by the contraction of muscles adjoining the ducts. The ducts carry the fluid around the body to drain the lymph back into the circulatory system.

Figure 02: Lymphatic System

Moreover, the lymph nodes present at certain intervals help filter foreign bodies out of the lymph. The lymph contains leucocytes to support the immunity and defence against diseases. Lymphatic system transports absorbed fats from the small intestine to the liver, circulates the interstitial fluid and plays a significant role in the defence against foreign agents or microbes.

What are the Similarities Between Circulatory System and Lymphatic System?

  • Lymphatic system is a part of the circulatory system.
  • Both systems involved in the transportation of vital fluids and dissolved material within the body.

What is the Difference Between Circulatory System and Lymphatic System?

Circulatory system performs the whole transportation activity of the body. The lymphatic system is an essential part of it. Cardiovascular system together with the lymphatic system makes the whole circulatory system of our body. Cardiovascular system transports blood via veins, arteries and capillaries while the lymphatic system transports lymph via lymphatic vessels.

The below infographic presents more details on the difference between circulatory system and lymphatic system in tabular form.

Summary – Circulatory System vs Lymphatic System

Cardiovascular system and lymphatic system are the two components of the circulatory system. Cardiovascular system transports blood while the lymphatic system transports lymph. These two systems are vital organ systems since they distribute the necessary materials, involve in defence mechanisms and immunity, transport respiratory gasses, etc. Cardiovascular system carried blood via veins, arteries and capillaries, while lymphatic system carries lymph via lymph vessels. This is the difference between circulatory system and lymphatic system.


1.Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Circulatory System: Facts, Function & Diseases.” LiveScience, Purch, 16 Mar. 2018. Available here  
2.Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions & Diseases.” LiveScience, Purch, 20 Feb. 2018. Available here   

Image Courtesy:

1.”Circulatory System en”By LadyofHats, Mariana Ruiz Villarreal – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 
2.”Blausen 0623 LymphaticSystem Female”By Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. – Own work, (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia